Off With Their Heads…

The internet has fueled the fire, and it seems now, that with City Ballet about to open tonight, we are demanding for their heads. Anyone who has ever danced for the historic New York City Ballet is putting out their opinions, opinions like, bring back the original Balanchine dancers. One of my favorite things about all of these former Balanchine dancers complaining, is they are a part of the generation that believes they are better than most because they come from a “golden age”. And so, like a lot of problems we have today, they are also blinded by  history and a ballet culture that is on it’s way out.

new york city ballet sex scandal.jpg

While others in the ballet world are demanding for a new female artistic director who is both artistic and business savvy for today’s audiences to be brought in (someone like… Lourdes Lopez, Miami City Ballet’s AD who just won the Dance Magazine award, or Jennifer Ringer who has successfully turned the Colburn School in Los Angeles into a thriving hub for Balanchine and Contemporary training). The internet has demanded that we strip New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet of their prestige and honor. 

Others have described that the leadership of City Ballet all should be replaced and that their new marketing campaign is just simply to sell sex. The new ad for City Ballet is genius… Not only is it sexy, but it is also beautiful and it is making ballet more modern and making it more understandable and relatable to the massive crowds of New York City. Ballet shouldn’t just be for those on the Upper East and Upper West. The former generation of Balanchine Dancers is also getting old, quite old. And from the 400 some ballets that were left from Balanchine, how many are truly worth saving? It isn’t like we saved very may ballets from the golden age of the Ballet Russes, or the Massine ballets….

People are demanding a lot from New York City Ballet. Moms want their daughters to be protected by an institution whose mission statement is about ballet, not raising kids. Dancers are wanting compensation for their lack of talent or rise to fame. Audiences and donors are withdrawing in fear of being shamed for supporting City Ballet. All of this because people made poor choices, bad decisions, and now somehow we have ruined the Balanchine Legacy and tarnished New York City Ballet’s name.

(And I am not saying or not saying that these men did or didn’t deserve things, and I am definitely not saying that horrific things didn’t take place, are taking place, and have taken place at the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet… I’m just saying)

The opinion piece in the New York Times was rather harsh, and simply to say, I think it just added fire and made the Balanchine Legacy look even worse. While I do applaud those who were once a part of the Balanchine Generation, I wonder if it is time for the Balanchine era to end regardless. Is it time to close this chapter on the Balanchine Aesthetic and move on? Ballet is becoming more and more demanding and the need for pure technical training is becoming more apparent. The School of American Ballet isn’t producing the dancers that it once was, and their students are getting jobs like they once were. Is it time for City Ballet to become a new kind of company that emphasizes technique, musicality, and modernism and not create a one note dancer?

Is it time to fundamentally change the company’s aesthetic that it became famous for? It seems like it because with everyone demanding that this is the end of City of Ballet… something has to change. What is going to change? How is it going to change? Will it ever change? Who knows?

While I think that NYCB has done a terrible job at reacting and handling all of these accusations, actual events, I do think that even more terrible things are going to come out. Working for Balanchine wasn’t easy either, and I think that all of these “Balanchine Era” dancers are also forgetting that scandals were happening back then as well… Because of Balanchine, body type become the most important thing and do we really want people who are so focused on skinny, skinny, skinny to be at the helm? Who knows? They also were a part of the culture of don’t talk about it and be silent to whatever was happening around them because “greatness” was happening in the roo.

Regardless, you all wanted my thoughts on the NYCB scandals, and I don’t have any besides the following:

Ballet isn’t bad… people are bad, and make poor decisions… sometimes forgivable, sometimes unforgivable…. Separate the two please… it doesn’t help we let men with misogynistic, racial, and particular body views be in full control without a checks and balance system. But no one person should ever have total control or say at any institution that is called communism.  It is sad to see such institutions fall to the pressures of time, the demand of the art form, and the unfailing disappointment of human actions and preferences. My greatest love in life is ballet, and I will continue to do whatever I can do to keep helping ballet progress for the better.

Where our ballet culture is now and where we want ballet culture to be… this is the conversation all ballet instititions should be having.

NYCB scandal


https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/in-wake-of-suit-against-new-york-city-balletaudiences-and-funders-should-demand-answers/2018/09/16/88f184a4-b5da-11e8-b79f-f6e31e555258_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.608144240bb5

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/09/16/nyc-fires-2-dancers-over-accusations-nude-photo-sharing-ring.html


 

What does it take to be a Ballerina?

Ballet is hard, like really hard. The overwhelming stories and information out there is daunting. As parents you only want what is best for your kid, as student your heart is full of passion and desire, as a teacher you just want to be the best mentor possible. Questions like, “What school to go to?” or “Where am I going to dance?” or “Should I compete at the YAGP?” are all questions that are out there. There are arguments on both sides to every question, and important questions like, “How many hours should my student be dancing?” or “What school is best suited for my child?” or “How much should I be posting on social media?”

What does it take to be a ballerina
Behind the Scenes of Issue 11 // Photographed by Me.

So what does it take to be a ballerina in today’s world?

If you asked me five years ago my answer would have sounded something like this, “You need all the right circumstances, but most importantly you need to work hard every day.” It would have been full of hope and inspiration. I would have said, “If you want to be a ballet dancer, and you are willing to put in the hard work, you will find a place to dance.”

But, this isn’t five years ago. This is now, and now more than ever, jobs in ballet are even more scarce and the world is now smaller than ever. And now, my answer might be jaded. But it is time to be honest and truthful. Watching dancers get placed into companies over the past few years, and watching dancers struggle to find work is even more heartbreaking.

To be a dancer in this day in age, the most important thing is you need to have the RIGHT training. Meaning, you have to find a school that is capable of placing you into a company. Before, schools would feed you into schools attached to companies. Now, it is more important to find strong training at a young age, and work hard inside of these schools. Schools that care not just about your technique, but who you become as a person. I don’t think that kids should be going away so young, unless their families are 100% positive their kid is prepared to be a good person. You have to be technically efficient at such a young age now. At thirteen a double pirouette on pointe isn’t good enough anymore. A good school will be able to call up a company or school and be able to get you placed. A good school will teach you proper modified Russian Technique. Unfortunately, Balanchine schools just are not cutting it anymore in the global market. Finally, your coaches need to be able to teach all pedagogies and different approaches. Every student is different and every student will turn differently, jump differently and have a different needs in the studio. (Click here for what makes a good teacher)

You need to have the right body type and proportions. With the influx of dancers out there, you need to have the right body proportions and body type. Proportions in the 9-head range, toned muscle building, and more importantly: long lean muscle building. You need to be naturally thin, and naturally elongated. Your body has to be primed for ballet. There are so many dancers out there, that body type and body proportions are becoming a priority. This isn’t just tall or short- it is about everything. Making sure that your body is the whole package. Bodies that are primed in ballet just naturally progress faster. (read more about body types) More importantly, these body types are becoming more and more common.

You need to have the right kind of facility; hips that are open, feet that point, knees that stretch, backs that are hypermobile.

Your family has to have the right financial circumstances. Ballet is expensive. And until you are ready to go to a tier one school on a full scholarship, you will be paying a very pretty penny. You will be paying for private lessons, Gyro, PT, Cryo, Pilates, Acupuncture, Dietary Restrictions. This also just doesn’t mean throw money at people. As parents you have to do your homework as well, and you have to understand what you are getting yourself into and what is required of your child.

Now, to add to all of that, you have to be musical and an artist. You have to be able to hear the music, feel the ballet, and develop a character. You also have to be able to perform. Perform in the studio and on stage.

Finally, you have to be smart, hardworking and dedicated. Loving ballet isn’t enough.You have to be hardworking, and put 100% into every class, and no matter how hard you work, you can never give up. Tenacity is key. Focus is crucial. Attention to details, the ability to blend into the corps de ballet when needed, and stand out as soloist when asked. You have to have a thick skin, because what people are going to tell you is going to be severe. Other dancers might try to knock you down because they are jealous. Teachers will push you to the breaking point, and not every director is going to like you, or think that you will fit into their school or company.

ballet is hard

But what is the payoff? For some, ballet teaches discipline and structure. Most who study ballet go onto great things because of what you learn in ballet. For some, ballet facilitates them into college. Ballet can open many scholarships and your education can be paid for. For me, it paid for Grad School.  College can lead to producing, executive positions in a ballet company, PR and Marketing and many other things. For some, ballet will become a tool for choreography. And for those who are lucky enough, ballet will lead to a job that actually pays the bills. And for an even luckier few, they will become principal dancers at companies and become a face that inspires the next generation. But it just doesn’t end there. Ballet leads to amazing things- the appreciation for music, for classical arts, and more. It exposes you to different ethnicities, different cultures, different ideas. It gives you discipline, dedication and the ability to find inspiration in monotony.

YAGP COVER 11copy copy
ISSUE 11 >> Read more by clicking above.

Finally, as hard as ballet is, it is the most wonderful thing. It is the combination of music, movement, human emotions, storytelling, fashion design and art coming together to create something that will only exist in that moment. So, as hard as it is to digest, the idea that you might not have what it takes to make it into a ballet company, don’t give up on the art. It is okay to do ballet recreationally, or train seriously, but not have a career. It really does bring the best of art together. It is something that we all should strive for. The essence of the ballet… not the politics of it.


A BALLET EDUCATION SPONSORS & ADVERTISERSrubiawear

 

Celebrating 4 Years!

It has been a long journey, but four years later I am here…

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Four years ago, I never thought that I would be a blogger. I thought I was going to have my career in fashion and teach ballet on the side for fun. In fact, I didn’t want this life at all. After my ballet career ended, I wanted nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, I lost my father, and my world didn’t make sense. But, ballet restores the order of the universe. It is one of the only thing reliable things in the world. You start with left hand at the barre, and do pliés, tendus, and so on.

Now four years later, I am about to finish issue 12 of the magazine, and start the third year. My book, that has taken me two years to write is done, and I am teaching all over the world and have started taking photos of beautiful dancers. So this is my thank you to all of you. Without you, my readers, and my supporters none of this would be possible, so thank you. Truly.

ATLANTA BALLET

international city school of ballet

 

Notes on The Fairy Doll

Always a controversy when it come to “lost” ballets, or ballets that are not performed every season and easily handed down from one generation to the next. One of those ballets is the full length Fairy Doll. Originally, premiered at the Vienna Court on October 4th 1888 as Die Puppenfee, this ballet is also based on E.T.A Hoffman’s 1815 story of the Sandman. He is the author of the Nutcracker, if your forgot, with music by Josef Bayer choreographed by Joseph Hassreiter, and then the pas de trois by Legat.

Fairy-Anna-Pavlova-backstage-as-the-Fairy-Doll-167x300
Anna Pavlova in the Fairy Doll, waiting backstage

Eventually, in somewhere in the 1920’s Anna Pavlova danced her version (the variation we now know at competition as the “big bow on the head”) by adding the music from Drigo’s “Halrequinade” and “serenade pas de trois”. When this happened Diaghilev commissioned Leonide Massine to create “La Boutique Fantasque” to an arranged score of Rossini, which obviously hasn’t survived…but in turn was the inspiration for  Balanchine’s Harlequinade.

So, the story line is simple in this two act ballet. In a toy shop a farmer and a noble come in with their families. The puppeteer shows the mechanical dancing dolls: Chinese, Japanese, Harelquin, Austrian, Baby Doll, Moor, Drumming Bunny Doll (which is given a nod in Balanchine’s Nutcracker), Spanish, Hungarian, Poet and the lovely Fairy Doll. Obviously the rich family wants the fairy doll and pays. The farmer buys the Harelquin and Austrian. The shop then closes, but when the clock strikes midnight, like in all fairy tales, the toys come to life. Not only do all the dolls come to life but the chess pieces, a cello, a hammer, bowling pin, bunny doll. They all dance, where the queen of the toys… the fairy doll and her two harlequins dance the very technical pas de trois.

Then as the night ends, all the dolls incircle the fairy doll just as the shopkeeper comes in and is mesmerized at the magic of the dolls. Easy enough. It is actually the perfect ballet if you are at one of those schools where EVERYONE insists on having a solo. Also, the variations are great to take to the YAGP as well… Not just the lead variation… but the other variations as well. It is actually why I am posting this… a lot of the competitors from Korea and Europe brought the variations of Chinese Doll, Austrian Doll, Spanish Doll and Japanese Doll… which actually sparked this post…

Below is the student performance from Vaganova Ballet Academy. I would love to give credit to whoever posted this but no name, just the same person who posts the exams… and I can’t translate the names to give credit to the dancers, but they are superb.


Don’t forget to sign up for my MAY 5 & 6 workshop in Atlanta!!
ATLANTA BALLET

 

ISSUE 11

YAGP COVER 11copy copy
ISSUE 11

Inside the world’s largest ballet competition. This year over 10,000 kids auditioned and competed at the Youth America Grand Prix and tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships were given out to promising young talent across the world. This issue is packed with the enormous talents emerging from the Youth America Grand Prix.

The Cover Features:
Brady Farrar, Misha Broderick, Joel Dichter, Madyson Grobe, Remie Madeline Goins, Jolie Rose Lombardo, Tia Wenkman, Kaeli Ware, Bel Pickering, Kali Kleiman, Lily Turner and Ava Arbuckle.

Reviews of Atlanta Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem & much more in the issue.

The issue comes out on FRIDAY!!! Until then…

Check out these young superstars on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeZpMcZlhAg/?taken-by=misha_broderick

https://www.instagram.com/p/BhJmS56BcAr/?taken-by=the.real.joel.dichter

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bgyhd4aBJBp/?taken-by=bel_pickering

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh0Ba6Ghjlk/?taken-by=lilytuturner

A Ballet Education Scholarship

A Ballet Education has committed/pledged to raise $27,000 dollars in scholarship funds for various organizations including the YAGP Korea, Burbank Dance Academy, the Cirio Collective & helping support kids with the financial aid to attend Summer Intensives and the YAGP. This crowdfunding initiative is to help support the art form that I love with all my heart. This year has been a devastating year for many, as ballet companies and schools are losing money and not giving out as many scholarships as usual. The costs of ballet are skyrocketing and the need to support the ballet is more important, now more than ever. 

For the 2018-2019 Season
YAGP KOREA through the Hee Seo Foundation $3,000
Burbank Dance Academy $1,000
YAGP FINALS FUNDS $10,000
SUMMER INTENSIVE FUNDS $13,000

How am I going to fundraise $27,000 for all these kids/dancers? Simple. All of the proceeds from my books, artwork, and magazine will now be going towards helping dancers across the world. I have been watching, listening, and hearing kids across the world struggle financially at their home studios and then when they are offered the chance to be seen, or have a career, or attend a summer intensive that could actually make their career… they can’t even afford the chance to go. It was hard to watch kids struggling this year at YAGP finals with the costs of everything. Numerous times, I had let kids hop into my UBER or LYFT because I knew it was going to cost them $15 dollars when we were all going to the same place… 

Why am I always helping YAGP KOREA? Because, for these young men, it is important to place at a ballet competition. If they don’t place, they will have to serve two years to the army at the age of 19. Their training will  stop completely, and the odds of them ever returning to ballet are slim. Read more here.

Why am I helping Burbank Dance Academy? Because I have seen, worked in, and observed the intensities of the Los Angeles Ballet Community, and I believe this school under Jason Coosner is creating a healthy and positive presence in the Los Angeles Ballet Community that is desperately needed. 

Think about it this way… 

If you buy 1 grande Starbucks espresso drink a day, that is $1,825 dollars a year- if you just cut back to 5 coffees a week, and donate the rest you would be donating $520 dollars a year. That is a plane ticket for a kid to attend finals, or attend a summer intensive on scholarship. It might be the last amount needed to attend for a student to attend a year round school. That’s 6 pairs of pointe shoes you could be helping a student receive. If you were to not go out and eat once a month, you would be able to donate $1,200. That is almost a full summer intensive fee. It is 12 pairs of pointe shoes. It is the cost of the hotel for YAGP finals. 

How can you help support? Subscribe to the magazine.
Or if you would like to donate, feel free to by clicking here.

Do you need a scholarship? Applications for scholarships will open in December 2018.

Notes of Pirouettes en dedans…

Notes on Pirouettes En Dedans…
how to do an inside pirouette

Working on pirouettes en dedans (pirouettes to the inside) can be hard. While it seems like they are easier than en dehors turns, the problem with en dedans is the turnout factor. Whether is a pirouette or attitude turn to the inside, these can be rather difficult to master because of the mechanics. The like all turns, the focus should always be on the supporting leg, and even more so with turns to the inside. Sooooo, let’s begin. Remember if you like this post, share it.

The Preparation Position
tension for turns
Pirouettes to the inside… the first thing you are going to want to focus on is the prepping position. Normally, when learning this turn you start in fourth position in croisé, with the back leg straight. You want to make sure that the supporting arm is in a very placed first position, don’t over cross it. For the working arm, the big mistake is opening up too far. Makes sure it is in front of your body… meaning look over your shoulder and make sure your elbow and hand are in front of your shoulder. A lot of times, young dancers will over compensate in this position and that supporting arm will be so far back… This also has to do with your hips and making sure they are in a true croisé. Make sure you can see both hips in the mirror. Remember, you are only crossing to you “box” not the shape of the room. 

The Passé
preparation pirouette
The action of getting into the retiré devant can happen two ways. The first way is when the dancer shifts/ fouettés to a dégagé en face position with arms in seconde. The second way is to directly bring the leg into the turning position. While a lot of the torque for the pirouette happens from the working leg, the tension and the inertia that drives the pirouette is still in the supporting leg.

The Arms
arms for pirouettes

During this time the arms are either moving from third to fifth, or second to first, or second to fifth. Or really any port de bras. The reality is they can be in any position, but there has to be a hair amount of tension built up. Weak arms in a turn is a death sentence. You wouldn’t want to fly in a plane with weak wings, so don’t turn with weak arms. Don’t over twist, and don’t wind up. It is one of the worst things you can do. While most of the energy comes from the arm, it isn’t about swinging into the position, but the amount of control and tension you can build to instantly get into the position and maintaining an inside axial spiral rotation in the upper body while the lower body resists and tries to press en dehors.

The Position
the position for turns

The problem with an inside pirouette is that as the supporting side and arms are rotating the axis inwards on the body, the working leg is working in the opposite direction. The common mistake is for the working leg to slightly turn in to help carry the rotations of the pirouette. This is most commonly seen in younger dancers. The more advance dancer knows the keep the knee behind the shoulder, thus causing the turn to “lose” another rotation. But the position itself is quite complicated. I would say it is more complicated than an en dehors pirouette, but maybe it is just a more difficult turn for myself. Unlike an en dehors pirouette, where you place into one position and create your own g-forge from the turnout and push back of the working leg and you can increase the g-force during the turn… an en dedans pirouette is based on the energy prior to the turn (in the prep and the actions leading into the position).

The Rotation
the position for pirouette

Ice skaters probably have it the easiest when it comes to rotating to the inside on the axis. While most of their jumps are to the outside, most of their spins start to the inside. The basic idea of their spins is their scratch spin. But here is what we can learn from this concept. The turn to the inside has to do with building momentum and increasing their g force by using their working leg to build the g-force. The biggest factor is the tension they build in their arms, back, and core. The coordination between their arms and working leg is crucial. We can take this same concept and apply it when folding into our pirouette. By building tension in the preparation, we are able to close the momentum on top of our axis, like figure skaters. Now to increase the rotations, the supporting side of our body has to turnout/rotate faster than our working side. Our working side is there just along for the ride, placed in a turned out position.

Increasing the rotations
pirouette inside

When turning to the inside the quickest way to build rotations is by getting in to the position as quickly as possible but maintaining the tension. The best way I find to get into the position is letting the working arm shift into seconde, and then immediately pull into the reitré position.  Don’t over rotate the second position. Then let the working side’s upper body press forward and spiraling up to the position

Option 2: Personally, I like to think of a barbershop pole, spiraling up into as many rotations as possible. Spiral up over the arch, and constantly keep growing up and out of your hips, through your chest and out through your arms.

Pet Peeves
One of my biggest pet peeves is when preparing, having your hips tilted. I don’t like the idea of “up and forward” in preparation for the en dedans. A lot of people engage this lunging position where the hips are behind the upper body because you are leaning forward. Personally, I prefer that the hips and spine are all in a neutral position right on top of the arch of the supporting side.

Another pet peeve is when turning, not using your lats. Instead of widening the back, people pinch it tight. Remember your back should be completely flat, no chicken wings, not tectonic plates pinching… just keep it completely flat.

Finally, my last pet peeve when turning to the inside is winding up. I hate it. If anything build the moment with the supporting arm, and the second it hits seconde position, pull into fifth (whether that is through first, or cutting en dedans to the fifth). Its one of the biggest mistakes people make and causes them to look extremely turned in. I see it all the time at these competitions, especially in the Paquita etoile variation. The turn in is real… like super real.

To buy the poster click here.

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For pirouettes en dehors click here.

Notes on Demi Plié

Ballet is hard. Really hard. No matter how ballet has progressed, the fundamentals of ballet have always stayed the same: turnout, pointed feet, and becoming something unattainable and unimaginable. Yes, these are the fundamentals, but the principals that ballet is based on have constantly changed throughout the decades to progress the technique. The first of these principles is plié. It is one of the first things you learn as a dancer. In the beginning, it is as simple as bending your knees and making a diamond.Then you learn to open your turnout, and finally it is the connection to the floor, the connection to tradition and the connection to a legacy that has been passed down from one generation to the next. So, the plié is not only the building block of ballet, but it also is the mental foundation of ballet.

notes on dem plies

From Issue 1 of A Ballet Magazine

No matter where you are in the world, no matter what time of day, no matter your socioeconomic status, if you take a ballet class, you will start pliés, unless a teacher gives you a random combination to warm-up your feet.

Plié

So, what are pliés used for?

Pliés are used to begin and end a jump, a turn, and basically every step in ballet. They are used to open the hips and facilitate turnout and to strengthen and lengthen the abductors. Pliés can be used to build strength in the hamstring, to stretch the Achilles, open the energy throughout the metatarsals, and open the body.

But more importantly, and the key to pliés, is the mindset that pliés set up for you. The plié clears your head, the outside world fades away, and ballet history starts to flow through your body. You see, pliés are a part of ballet history, and not just on the technical side of things. For generations, it has been a part of the tradition we enjoy so much. Plus, if you think about starting at barre, and the slight gesture of placing your hand at the barre, your hand is likely touching the imprint or sweat of generations before you. Think about it like this. Let’s say you go to SAB for the summer, and you are in one of the larger studios. Consider everyone who has touched that barre before you, stood where you stand, and now they are a part of ballet history. Think about the legends who grew up at Lincoln Center, or the standouts at your own studio who have moved on to accomplish great things. Sometimes, even inanimate objects have a history so inspiring that you are taken aback with awe.

Pliés for the Young Student
When you are younger, you think that the plié is the easiest of the technical vocabulary to master, but in reality it is quite difficult. Young students should really focus on alignment of the body, and really master the mechanic of slight movements (port de bras, plié, cambré, etc.), while maintaining their core.

Pliés for the Pre-Pro/Professional Student
For students who are in a higher program, the focus of a plié is to open your hips and start moving your joints. You should have warmed up prior to class, but if you aren’t there yet, then you really do use pliés as a warm-up. But, what you should focus on is the ability to gather and sustain energy from the body.

Pliés for the Professional
Once you are at a certain point in your career, pliés become the habit of life and just feel good. It is probably the only combination at barre that is easy and becomes second nature to you. But for you kids reading this, every professional uses pliés to warm-up the body and set the tone for their dance day. They will also pace themselves at barre, and work on the quality of their plié.

Pliés for the Mature Dancer
If you are on the mature side of dance, remember to thoroughly warm-up the body prior to taking class. The older we get, the more we have to preserve the body to prevent injury and to sustain dancing. Proper alignment really does become crucial for older dancers, especially where the knee is going in the plié. I always use my second toe as the guide of where my knee should be extending. With my demi plié, I also really try to make sure my knee goes slightly further than the length of my feet to get a really good stretch out of my Achilles.

Teaching Pliés: The David Way
Teaching how to properly plié is actually quite difficult. You can’t just say, “Bend Your Knees!” because some kid is going to bend their knees and out goes their rear, their ribs splay, and it becomes a hot mess. Truthfully, I actually don’t teach kids to plié in first position until age 8 or 9, when they can actually comprehend the fundamentals of the technique. With young students, I really try to maintain the integrity of the plié without messing up alignment by having them go under the barre and against the wall.

This only works if your barres are built into the wall and you have enough space for a dancer to go through. I am lucky to have the barres about 18 inches out from the wall but drilled into the floor- designed for stretching purposes and little kids. I have them do first position, backs against the wall, and as they plié I try to have them press their knees to touch the back of the wall. Honestly, I think I have only seen 4 kids do this naturally, otherwise it is like impossible — unless you have more than 180 turnout. But, by having them use this technique, and pressing the low back and full spinal cord into the wall, they are starting to learn how to build tension in the core, and feel the power of a plié coming from the hip. I also don’t really teach grand plié until they are 10 or 11 years old.

When they are older, they use one hand at the barre, (by now they have mastered grand plié facing the barre), but this time the focus isn’t just rotation and alignment, but coordination of the arm. I despise when people do grand plié and at the bottom of the grand plié their hands is in front of their crotch region; I think it’s ugly. So, I have my students delay the arm until they reach demi plié on the way back up.

grand plie
A Ballet Education Covergirl and ADC IBC GRAND PRIX winner:  Tegan Chou in Grand Plié

Finally, when teaching pliés, there are various universal corrections to keep in mind:
Lateral Alignment through the spine, ribs, and hips.
The alignment of the movement, knees over toes.
Feet should be flat on the floor, toes spread, but arches must be lifted.
When doing the second part of a plié, coming back up, the top of your thighs should touch first and then like an upside down zipper come together, one tooth at a time.
Spiral the inner back of your thigh forward.
Don’t rush the music.
Don’t sit at the bottom of grand plié.
Pliés should never stop moving.

 

Notes on Second Position / Perfect Symmetry

Second Position is usually noted as the easiest position of the five as it has the least amount of pressure on the hips and knees, but lately I have been finding that second position might be even more difficult than first if done properly. Let’s break it down…

Second Position Rectanble

The idea of Second position takes Davinci’s Vitruvian man and then shortens the arms to elongate the legs. This is done by the curving of the port de bras. Then if you wanted to elongate the legs even more you would go on relevé, and even further go en pointe.

When standing in second position, not only are you making sure that your hips are equally between to feet, you are also lining up the hips to make sure they are not behind or in front of your feet. A common mistake in grand plié, is to allow your hips to shift back… but that is wrong, it also increases the amount of stress on the inside of your knee.

Second position allows you to really feel the turnout from the backs of your legs because your legs aren’t touching, so you have to really visualize the spiral coming from the back and opening your hips. If done properly, it will allow you to plié with exact alignment of the knees over the second toe and not putting pressure anywhere else.


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In second position it is easy to let your arches drop or let your feet pronate or supinate because there is not checks and balances. Where in first your heels and knees are touching, and fifth you are toe to heel, heel to toe. So, in second it is important to remember to keep your arches lifted, five toes spread on the floor, and the feeling of all five metatarsals evenly touching the floor. You should also feel your weight in the pads of your feet and support by the lower arch.

Remember, and this is pretty standard… don’t lift your heels in second position… which is truly the test of second position which makes it extremely difficult. Because the pelvis is free, it allows the Achilles to be free. Meaning, you can fully stretch your achilles out.

This is when people like to agree to disagree on how wide a second position should be.

second position

Classical Ballet really calls for a refined second position. Meaning 1 or 1 and a half times your foot length in the gap. This is included for pointe work. Where, updated technique allows for a wider or “healthier” second position.

Classical Second Position:
Pros: It is cleaner and forces the dancer to focus on turnout and alignment more, stretches the Achilles more.
Cons: It can create a shallower demi-plié, it is harder to achieve a nice grand plié and it is harder to master.

Updated Second Position:
Pros: easier on the body, allows for a bigger hamstring stretch
Cons: More can go wrong in grand plié and can put more pressure on the knees.

When doing an updated second position, I think the aesthetic is nicer when the arm is higher and less curved and more about length. Whichever one you choose, make sure it looks right on your body. For example, I have really long arms, so when I do the more classical second position, I have ot curve and place my arm a little more than I would usually to keep my body in a nice proportion.

Things to remember in Second Position:
Go long. Reach each scapula away from eachother to create the widest back.
Longest neck line
Really open those hips, thing of opening French doors to allow you to turn out more
Keep the weight even, don’t sit back or push forward, don’t favor one leg over the other.


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Notes on Fifth Position

Fifth position: home base. This position can be the best feeling in the world, or it can be your worst enemy. It is painfully beautiful, gives you the longest leg line, and most of all it is the ultimate measure of turnout, placement and technique. The ideal fifth position is taking the feet in first position and overlapping them to create two parallel lines giving your legs two diagonal lines. As most teachers would say, “toe to heel, heel to toe.” This position creates a narrow hip line, and brings your body into the longest standing position of the body. But, it isn’t easy achieving this position.

Not only do you have to understand how the upper body works, and how the core lifts, but most importantly you have to understand how to use the backs of your legs (click to learn more) or you will get a distorted– heavy position; opposed to a long and light position.

You should never grip your quads in fifth. Truthfully, you should just never grip your quads. The inside of your thighs should lay extremely flat, and your knees should be facing opposite walls and pulled back. A good fifth position will have the knees crossing but not touching. This would be perfect 180 degree turnout and then some.

Fifth Position

5 THINGS YOU SHOULD JUST NEVER DO IN FIFTH…

1.One of the biggest mistakes most students make in fifth position… is when crossing into fifth they relax their core and causes the pelvis to tip forward. Students think it is a way you relieve pressure or cheat your turnout… You actually want to do the complete opposite. You should be so pulled up in the front of your hips that your fifth closes seamlessly. Additionally, you should be rotating from the backs of your legs to keep your pelvis supported, and lifting through your core to keep the pelvis stable.
2.Another pet peeve in fifth position is a relaxed front knee. It is this pseudo Miss America position that grosses me out. Not to mention, if you are relaxing your knee, you are probably using your quad in everything else and you are just going to get big thighs.
3.You should also never pronate forward or back. You should never force a fifth position, you are asking for knee problems. There is nothing wrong with having 150 degrees of turn out. The ideal is always going to be 180, but if you can’t achieve 180 with your hips rotation, knee rotation, ankle rotation without compromising alignment; then just stay where you are at. But keep cross training and stretching to eventually be strong enough to get to 180.
4.Don’t ever do open fifth. Always cross your fifth. This whole open fifth is awkward… Not to mention open fifth in pointe shoes is ridiculously ugly. Ideally, you shouldn’t see your back foot, but if your hips aren’t flexible enough to hold the position, keep working hard.
5.Fifth position should never ever be forced. Turnout can be stretched, but you work on turnout in pilates, gyro and yoga… You use barre and fifth to strengthen and lengthen the position. Forcing turnout causes numerous problems on the hips, ankles, knees, pelvis and lower back. So, again, just do it.


how-to-do-ballet-positions1

Notes on First Position 


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NEW @ A BALLET EDUCATION

 

A few new things are finally here at A Ballet Education!
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The first thing up is, I am putting up a bunch of videos on Youtube. I promise that the quality of filming will get better!

Also, a lot of you have asked to be fully illustrated instead of doodled… and my answer has always been no… until now. I finally feel comfortable enough to do faces. On SALE TODAY for the first 20 buyers.

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Finally, I am now available for consultations online!

 

How Much Should You Cross-Train for Ballet?

It seems, as of late, the majority of emails coming in, at the moment, revolve around cross-training… and it isn’t just parents writing in. It is studio owners, colleagues, and other dancer teachers out there. In a recent video on Instagram, it shows super talented dancers cross-training at the gym; not to mention ABT’s obsession with workout videos lately… Mostly, I think, to promote their friend’s business… Regardless… cross-training seems to be what is on everyone’s mind, especially gearing up for competition season.

how much should you cross train for ballet

Ballet Dancers seem to use a million different ways to augment their trainining… from nutrition to physical excercise, cross-training takes just as much time and money as ballet. And no… that doesn’t mean to buy a $7,000 dollar reformer for the house… I mean if you are going to have a pilates instructor come to your house, or you have put in thousands of hours… and have the liquid income… then go for it… otherwise… don’t

So, the first question you have to look at is how many hours a week are you training? This includes private lessons, private coaching sessions and rehearsal hours. Time management is crucial. Different schools have different approaches when it comes to the hours a dancer puts in. Lets say to be conservative for every 5 hours of classes you probably should be cross training at least an hour a week. This could be stretch and conditioning or something as simple as cardio. The reason behind cross training is so that muscles don’t over develop, so that the body is getting an even workout, and to focus on smaller details. This is opposed to regular ballet class to enhance and learn ballet vocabulary technique, rehearsals to learn choreography, private lessons to focus on individual needs… etc.

I know it is a lot… so we are basically saying if your kid is dancing 30 hours a week, they should be cross training 6 hours a week, and still getting 55 hours of sleep in… plus school and homework… and we only get 168 hours in a week. It seems impossible. Ballet schools should be implementing a lot of these practices in the curriculum. But if they aren’t.. then you will have to do it on your own. Make sure you are on the right and safe equipment… and you have a good pair of shoes that support your arches.

Things you should have at home or in your dance bag for cross-training on your own…
Bosu Ball... it is $100 bucks but one of the best investments for your dancer. Not only can you strength train on it but you can also work on balancing and core.

Resistance Bands

Foam Roller/Muscle Roller
You can not only maintain muscle, but  you can also use it to stretch and increase your stretch…

Flexi Stretcher

Ways to Cross-Train…

Pilates Life:
“Dancers spend most of their time in the studio, dedicating themselves to their art. Ballet/dance is their real job and like any job it is a daily struggle and it takes it’s toll on the body. Pilates helps them to rectify the imbalances they tend to create in the studio (from my experience, ballet dancers are particularly asymmetrical). With choreographers and teachers demanding daily perfection, Pilates allows dancers the space they need outside of the studio and outside of class to re-balance, release and re-connect. I started Pilates in my first year of the Australian Ballet School, which is around 23 years ago. Initially I found it hard to understand. Pilates is full of subtlety and nuance and it takes a long time to become familiar with it. When I was dancing my best, Pilates was for the most part a daily routine. A couple of hours of Pilates before ballet class became a necessity for me to feel good on stage. It balanced me out, helped me to rehabilitate injuries and be stronger than the challenge I faced. Simply put, it made my dancing better and more enjoyable.” -Marc Cassidy, former Senior Artist with The Australian Ballet and now owns and operates TrueFormPilates in Melbourne. Quote from Dance Informa

Cardio Life:
According to Harvard’s SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, the average child 11-18 should be engaged in moderate or vigorous activity for an hour a day… we got that covered. However, cardio does build stamina and helps burn calories… Not that a kid should have to worry about that… But, this is on top of elite athletics. I mean, I for sure don’t have an hour a day to just briskly walk but it’s something to strive for. I would avoid the treadmill and other weight on the joints activities and focus on like swimming or yoga… though swimming can also restructure the body’s lung capacity and cause broadening of the chest and back… not ideal for girls.  Jumping rope on clay is always fun. I avoid biking because it makes your quads larger and tighter.

Weight Training:
Children under the age of 15 are not encouraged to weight train whatsoever. According to Harvard and Yale’s studies… it can actually cause bone density and growth issues. (It kind of borders on the same idea that you shouldn’t start pointe to early) Kids should rather do unstructured activities like playing on playground equipment, climbing trees, and so forth.

(Physical Activity guidelines for Americans. U/S/D.o.H.a.H. Services, Editor, 2008)

Gyrotonics:
If you can afford it, and have a place close to you… Gyrotonics is wonderful and magical.

“The GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® Method is a unique, holistic approach to movement. Some of the benefits of a regular Gyrotonic practice include a healthier, more supple spine, increased range of motion, greater joint stability, improved agility and athletic performance, and a deep internal strength. Experienced Gyrotonic trainers offer personalized sessions that are adapted to fit the needs of all ages, and abilities, from elderly patients recovering from injury, to highly skilled professional athletes.” – Gyrotonic Website

Physical Therapists:
Injury Rehab and Prevention are extremely important. More and more former dancers have continued their career by attending med school like Alexis Sams. Alexis has not only studied other methods but she has gone on to develop numerous ways for dancers to cross train. Everything from coordination, to strengthening, stretching and pointe… Dr. Sams is another great resource out there. And she isn’t the only one.

Supplements
From avoiding gluten, avoiding dairy, avoiding meat… and anything else pumped with hormones, it seems supplements are becoming a big part of dance training. I mean, so are essential oils.

Mancrush Monday: David Hallberg

Okay, I know it isn’t monday… but I couldn’t come up with a title… and I found myself surrounded by David Hallberg today.

David Hallberg A Ballet Education

The International Ballerino: David Hallberg
From Arizona Ballet School to the Paris Opera Ballet School… David Hallberg joined American Ballet Theatrein April of 2001 and rose to the rank of Principal in May 2005. While at ABT he won the Benois de la Danse Prize as best male dancer for Albrecht in Giselle. But it wasn’t enough to end there… in 2011 he became the first American to join the presitigious Bolshoi Ballet under the title Premier Dancer. In 2013 he made his debut at the Paris Opera and since has danced with numerous companies around the world. Notably last year he created the title: Resident Guest Artist at the Australian Ballet…But that isn’t enough… the fashion world adores him. From spreads in VOGUE, GQ, CR BOOK to being photographed by some of the most influential photographers of our time…  Landing covers of New York Magazine…and numerous others… the Nike Endorsement… The list goes on and on… But it wasn’t always easy for him, battling a serious injury…

David Hallberg

But, I am here now, on vacation, enjoying my time reading his book: A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back. (Kindle $14.99/Hardcover $18.30/Audible–Free click the image below to shop)

David Hallberg Dancer

The book is actually a pretty decent self reflection… FYI… no pictures.

And if that isn’t enough… Pathé Live just released the Art of David Hallberg… a two disc DVD set featuring his Sleeping Beauty with Svetlana Zakharova, choreography by Yuri Grigorovich and the allstar cast of Marco Spada (Hallberg, Obraztsova, Smirnova, Chudin, Tsvirko) by Pierre Lacotte.

And then there are these amazing 10 videos of his dancing online…

 

 

for more information on David Hallberg you can visit his website by clicking here.

 

Notes on Effacé

Efface social media 2

notes

Effacé, effacée [eh-fa-SAY/]. Shaded. One of the directions of épaulement (body directions to classify the arms, head, shoulders, legs in relation to the audience) in which the dancer stands at an slight angle to the audience so that a part of the body is taken back and almost hidden from the audience’s view. This direction is classically termed “ouvert” in the French Method. Effacé, most popularly is used to qualify a pose in which the legs are open (not crossed to the audience). This pose may be done devant (front) or derrière (back), either à terre (on the ground) or en l’air (in the air). Origin of the word is French, like all of the ballet vocabulary. The etymology behind the word takes “e-“ and “face” to create “effacer”, in the 15th century the “r” was dropped.

efface ballet education
Effacé is one of the most beautiful positions in ballet. Between the simplicity of the placement and the control of the body, this position is often overlooked. While the first body position at center we learn is en face, efface usually follows once the dancer understands stage direction, body alignment, and understanding. Effacé is one of the body positions we learn on the angle as a part of epaulment. This positioning makes up half of the lateral positions. The other being croisé.

In ballet, this position is used all the time. Effacé is the easiest and probably most used position, and this position revolves around steps moving down the diagonal of the room, “from the corner”, or “across the floor” exercises. Usually starting in B plus, this position is often used to transfer weight and travel. Which is why we often overlook this position. It is so important to always control your turnout, foot articulation and weight change through this position/step (tombé)…

We often forget that positions in ballet, are never really just a position. The movement or energy needed causes the position to grow, change, and expand. Based on artistic freedom you play with the timing, breath, and coordination of the position.

What makes effacé so great and so versatile is the stylized versions of effacé. Usually is actually changing the epaulment but holding the position of the legs, this position becomes so beautiful. Different ballets cause for different stylized versions. For example, in Giselle, the effacé position in Act I will be more peasant stylized, and the body is forward and the head is slightly cocked. Then in Act II, the position is extremely forward, and the eye line is very low.

Regardless of the style, effacé must be turned out at all times to show the cleanest line of the body. If your body doesn’t have a ton of rotation you can cheat the line but winging your working foot. If you still can’t get that clean position, you can cheat the hips in effacé devant. I don’t recommend this at all, but it is important to have a clean line in this position. To cheat it, slightly shift your weight into your standing leg. Slightly release your piriformis and shift your hips to allow the line to shift. This will allow you to change the line of your leg so you can really get the supporting hip heel up towards the ceiling. Don’t forget to pull your toes back to create/finish the line!


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Should You Homeschool?

There comes a point for a lot of dancers who have to make the choice of homeschooling. Ballet is so time-consuming, so there has to be a “give and take”. I myself, did high school online and finished in two years, third in my class and with my AA. So, if you are self-motivated it’s a great opportunity to balance dancing and education. The video below was made by a ballet student about her experiences with online school. (@chloechka_art) Props to her for animating at the age of 15, because I am like dying just doing 2D drawings.

 

So, how do you know when it is right to homeschool? There comes a point where the hours in the day are running short, and it seems that there aren’t enough hours in the day to balance school, homework, dance and rehearsals. For some, the answer is easy and it is to homeschool. While homeschool isn’t for everyone, for those who do want to pursue that option, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Nowadays, you just need to fill out an affidavit and set up your curriculum. If you can financially afford to purchase curriculum that’s probably the easiest way. If you can’t afford to buy a set curriculum, you can piece it yourself. But, one of the best things you can do is find an online charter school in your state.

homeschool aballeteducation

If you are ready to homeschool and don’t know how to talk to your parents about it, ask your dance teacher, and they should be able to help explain the reasons why, and provide you with proper guidance. If they can’t, you can show them this article.

Parents, if you are student shows you this article, or you yourself are considering homeschooling here are some reasons why homeschooling might be a better option for your child:

  • To be a part of a pre-pro program most start at 10:00 AM or 1:00 PM.
  • Most ballet dancers are self-sufficient and can work at a faster pace so they don’t waste time.
  • Homeschooling allows for more hours of dancing and rehearsals, not to mention if you are asked into a year-round school, it’s an easier transition.
  • Travel time. It also saves on travel time and chauffering around.
  • It allows dancers to excel at their own pace. Sometimes it is frustrating not being able to control the progress in the ballet studio, so having control of progress in education is a good feeling.

Finally, homeschool isn’t for everyone. Some schools will allow dancers to leave early and skip out on elective and PE classes in exchange for their dance school to sign off on hours. This allows for more hours of dance. And, you should never compromise the quality of education for your dancing because an education is something that no one can take away. You also will need it as a backup plan if you get injured or if you don’t get a contract.


The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

Christmas Comes Early…

It is that time of year again… as cliché as that line is, in ballet, we cycle through each season and either love or dread this time of year. The day after Halloween usually means Christmas is already up in stores and there is a high probability of hearing this music outside the studios at least once a day at either a Starbucks, Department Store or on the Radio… Yup… It is Nutcracker time.

Tonight was a great night for me. Christmas definitely came early for me. You see, my day started off pretty lame, because of a meeting running over, I was missed Ballet Arizona‘s Performance of Swan Lake featuring ABE CoverGirl Mimi Tompkins. This also meant I missed out on hanging out with ABE’s Ashley Baker. Then I was bogged down by drama from my previous job, that I am staying out of. Needless to say, it basically has been the subject of my life for the past week. But then, while trying to figure out logistical things in my life, a random friend request came to me on the Facebook. At first, I was like who is this? Then I realized who it was and got excited. We started talking over Facebook and basically, it resulted in a dream come true for me. (If you are a ballet teacher, you will LOVE this, like die over it, drool over it, use it to death etc). Literally, it is a dream come true, for me… and for like thousands of ballet teachers out there… So excited.

If you aren’t following on Instagram- this week/month I am releasing all of the roles in the Nutcracker. (@aballeteducation)

Remember, during Nutcracker Season, with all of the rehearsals, just try not get injured. Stay warm in between rehearsals and runs. Arleo Backwarmers and Rubia Wear Legwarmers is the way to go… Also a Uniqlo Vest… and moon boots / booties. And while we are at it… a scarf, sweatpants, trash bags and you might as well get your stretchers out as well. With Nutcracker around the corner, it means the countdown to YAGP has started and auditions for Summer Courses…

Issue 8 for a Ballet Magazine is coming together nicely.

The Guide to Pas De Deux was Released Today/ On Sale for $9.99 / Click the Pic to Buy /
The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

Is ballet getting too good too fast?

the baby ballerina

It is no secret that between physics, anatomy, and kinesiology, that ballet technique has literally been perfected to a science. Now, dancers are pushing their bodies even harder, pushing it to the limits to achieve something new, something unseen and something exciting. Dancers are training as hard as ever, and training smarter than any other previous generation. The access and exposure to resources young dancers have now is insane. Ten-year-olds are now becoming insane technicians all before their bodies change. Thirteen-year-olds are now pushing technique and artistry. Sixteen-year-olds are looking like prime dancers, and eighteen-year-olds are killing themselves in the corps de ballet.


Elisabeth Beyer, Satanella Variation, YAGP 2017 FINAL ROUND, winner of the Natalia Makarova Award, and winner of the Moscow Ballet Competition.

As the years have unfolded, dance has progressed at such a fast rate, a rate that I don’t think anyone saw coming. The finesse, the artistry, the acting, and the tricks are all combined to create these mega-monster dancers. These dancers right now are all between the ages of ten and sixteen and are kicking butt. They are dominating the competition circuit, they are dancing every genre of dance, and they are already making appearances at international galas. They are showing the finesse of technique, budding artistry, and emotion depth that has been in the lack for a long time now.

Are students peaking too early? In recent conversations with colleagues across America, there are two problems that are facing young dancers today. The first question asked is, “Are students peaking too early?” and the second question, “Is the job market able to accommodate these dancers?” As dance has always been for the young, it seems that we are now facing the dilemma of bringing back the infamous baby ballerina or watching some of the world’s best talent sit in the corps.

So, if a student like this doesn’t burn out, if they don’t get injured (and they shouldn’t unless a horrible accident), what do they do? Do they audition at fifteen, get into a trainee program, join the second company at sixteen for two years, and then join as an apprentice at eighteen, and they get their corps contract. They sit in the corps for three to five years until a soloist spot opens up, and become a principal in a few years after that? If that is the case and a dancer peaks at sixteen, that usually means, that their prime years will be done before they are even a principal. A dancer’s body usually has somewhere between ten to twelve years of prime dancing from the time they peak. Back in the day, dancers would peak somewhere around twenty-one. When their bodies curate technique as second nature, artistry and freedom of expression click, and their dancing intensifies. So from the time they peak, if they get ten years… This new generation of dancers will have their prime years between sixteen and twenty-eight.

Comments have been made, that there are some young dancers in top companies in the corps de ballet who are technically better than most soloists out there. The problem is that no company director right now is going to risk giving such a young dancer a principal title. Beckanne Sisk pulled it off at Ballet West with careful guidance by Adam Sklute. She managed to become a principal dancer within four years of joining the Utah company. Notably, Lauren Lovette, New York City Ballet, also pulled off a pretty quick rise to the top. She joined City Ballet in 2009 and was a principal by the 2015/2016 season. Jeffrey Cirio rose quickly to the top of Boston Ballet by joining in 2009 and becoming a principal by 2012. He jumped to American Ballet Theatre as a soloist in 2015 and became a principal the following year after his nomination for a Prix de Benois. He then added English National Ballet as a guest principal artist.

This begs the question, what do we do with all of these young superstars? Professional children’s company? Start replacing soloists and corps members with these dancers, and hiring a special teacher/psychologist to help these dancers have healthy lives? It is funny, because Hollywood embraces young talent, and between labor laws and unions exceptional young talent in Hollywood is protected. Should the same apply to dancers? Look at say, Dakota Fanning, Abigail Breslin, Arianna Grande, and Selena Gomez. All of these young women took their art and passion to another level, fueled by desire and hope. In film and music, there was a space for these young dancers to grow. Is ballet ever going to make that change? Could a sixteen-year-old girl pull off the full-length Sleeping Beauty, in the title role as a sixteen-year-old princess? I believe so, I just saw a handful of dancers who are ready to take on this full-length ballet. I don’t think a sixteen-year-old could pull off, say, Swan Lake, but I think they could pull off ballets like Coppelia, La Fille, Grad Ball, Sugar Plum and many others at a major company and pack the house.


Gold medal and Special Award winner at Senior devision Evelina Godunova

So, as ballet constantly evolves day to day, we have to ask ourselves, “What is going to be next? Is the job market ever going to allow for young exceptional talent? Will the older generation of ballet finally give into the progress of ballet?” We all know that most of the problems in ballet, problems like diversity, sexuality, mental health, body type are all being supported and being created by the older generation of directors, ballet masters, and school directors… Soo, when is it all going to change?

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What Makes a Good Ballet Teacher?

There are so many types of teachers out there, it is important that parents and students know what they are getting. After working across the United States and talking to parents and students, I’ve realized that when it comes to ballet, a lot of people are getting ripped off, majorly ripped off. It is almost depressing. So, what makes a good teacher? What makes a great teacher? What are the differences in teachers? And how, as a dance teacher, do you make yourself better?

What makes a good ballet teacher

What is a Ballet Teacher? This is such a vague term… like such a vague term. Some teachers use certificates to justify their credentials… like the ABT National Training Certification or the RAD levels… Unfortunately, this doesn’t make them good teachers. Also, just because they were a principal dancer… that doesn’t make them a good teacher either. And, just because you have a Russian affiliation doesn’t make you a good teacher. And just because you graduated from a top ballet school doesn’t make you a good teacher either. Additionally, just because you have a college degree in dance or dance pedagogy or something random like a BFA from a random school; doesn’t mean you are going to be a good teacher.

Being a ballet teacher is hard because ballet itself is diverse. The pedagogy, ideology, and science differs accordingly based on each person. Sometimes this a good thing, sometimes it is a horrible thing and waste of money for parents. Not all pedagogies are created equally. and not all bodies can do any pedagogy.

What makes a good ballet teacher?
Multi-tasking: A good ballet teacher usually is someone who can inspire an entire class, while concentrating on the individual needs of each student, all while maintaining a precise curriculum.
Good Eyes: A good ballet teacher has a keen eye for body placement, alignment and can find minuscule errors when a child dances.
Good Ears: A good ballet teacher understands music and can hear multiple melodies and rhythms within a song.
Educated: A good ballet teacher understands anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. Teachers should be able to prevent injuries with healthy technique and should guarantee well-shaped bodies.
Experience: Has experience within the professional world of ballet. It is important to have these experiences so you can help guide students into the professional world.
Connected: A good ballet teacher is still plugged into the ballet world, so they understand what is happening and what the industry is needing, wanting and demanding.
ballet-teacher-problems-3

What makes a great ballet teacher?
A good sculptor
: An exceptional ballet teacher can see beyond what is directly in front of them and can reshape the body and pull out the ballet technique from their students. This quality is actually very hard to find.

Don’t get me wrong, we need regular ballet teachers out there… but the problem is, that in today’s market of dancers, teachers have to be exceptional and create exceptional dancers. It isn’t good enough to just teach a plié by saying it means “to bend” and then demonstrate the bending of the knees. You physically have to get on your hands and knees, and explain that it is a constant action because it is a verb. It never stops, and it isn’t initiated from the knees, a plié comes from the pressure in the hips rotating outwards and the muscles rotating back, without strain, so much that it causes the knees to bend. The fact that the femur head has to be inside the pelvis, the weight placement has to be so precise. And the depth of the plié has to be controlled from the achilles without pronating or “rolling” of the feet.

  • If your ballet teacher just walks around the room and gives general corrections… bad teacher.
  • If your teacher sits in a chair and just directs and yells… bad teacher… maybe better off to be a director.
  • If your teacher can’t explain the physics and science behind ballet… bad teacher.
  • If you are noticing your muscles shaping to be large or bulky… super bad ballet teacher.. and if they tell you it’s genetics… just walk out.
  • If your teacher tells you that it’s normal to be injured and you have to work through it… HORRIBLE TEACHER!! GET OUT BEFORE YOU BREAK YOUR BODY.
  • If your teacher tells you that you will never be a dancer… definitely get the hell out there.

What is a Master Teacher? a master teacher is someone who has dedicated quite a bit of time and energy on their craft of teaching and has become recognized as one of the greats. Usually, these wonderful people are specifically focused on technique. This title usually refers to someone who has honed their skills as a teacher, and was able to create a method to improve or change the ballet technique for the better. They are everything mentioned above and magnified. To note some of America’s best: Bruce Marks, Finis Jung, Willy Burmann, Marcia Dale Weary and the late David Howard. (I’m not claiming I’m a master teacher, but this is the category I have fallen into, not really by choice.)

…Faculty– Faculty is usually associated with a school, specifically a school with a solid curriculum. A faculty is usually pieced together based on educational credentials, and each faculty member brings something different to create an overall aesthetic or pedagogy of teaching.

…Coach– A coach usually focuses on one thing. Each coach has a specialty, like stretching or port de bras, artistry or turns.

…Ballet Master/ Ballet Mistress– by definition this person is employed by a ballet company to teach and rehearse dancers. Note, you have to employed by a ballet company… a real one. These professionals have usually danced a full repertory and they share their experiences with other dancers in terms of coaching for a role. (Such hard work, I do this too… and it’s exhausting.)

…Répétiteur– Is someone in the craft of staging and translating ballets. Being a répétiteur is one of the hardest jobs in ballet because you have to know everyone’s part, and what is going on at all times on the stage. Their focus isn’t really technique, but production and precision. (I have just started staging full ballets and translating them onto companies and schools, and I have to say, it is a lot of work. Like a lot of work.)

…Director– Someone with a vision… This doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best teacher. Directors have the ability to see an artistic vision and execute it. Usually, they are also decent teachers, decent repetiteurs and have ballet mastered at some point.

…Guest Teacher– Usually, a big name dancer/teacher coming in to share experiences, tips and more. Guest teachers usually have a different take on students as they are there for 3 hours and then they are gone. They are brought in to supplement the training and inspire students. Guest teachers help try to assess and push the kids as hard as they can in a very short amount of time.

If you are a teacher and you want to better yourself, for your school, students and your own self fulfillment.. If you are interested in the Ballet Education Curriculum or Ballet Education Teacher Training Workshop, feel free to contact me here.


Don’t forget I’m teaching in Los Angeles today!! Click the Image to Pre-Register!
downtown los angeles ballet

YEAR 1 … Done.

FALL 2017

Issue 6 Featuring Tegan Chou

6 Issues 1 crazy year. When I started the magazine I was living in California, then Phoenix, and now issue six is published from Charleston. What a crazy whirlwind! But how wonderful! With so many subscribers and followers, we were able to lower the cost of the subscription to the magazine! Which is exciting!

ballet turns 1

Still too expensive? Don’t worry, this entire month JOOmag Publishers are giving us 50% off, which means you get 50% off. Just use the coupon code: K0LBKWTVBUL4
Sorry, it is so long! But it is worth it.

This year a Ballet Education has five really big things coming up…
1. A Ballet Education’s YouTube Channel & Tutorials
2. A Ballet Education’s Teacher Workshops
3. A Ballet Education’s Master Class Series
4. A Ballet Education’s A Ballet Magazine getting even bigger
5. A Ballet Network’s great list of clients to work with.


sucess ballet

thug life